AFBI's Biomaterials and Microscopy Section covers a wide range of disciplines with particular emphasis on the characterisation and quality assessment of plant / bio-materials and their derivatives.
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) cross section of wheat straw stem
Typical work areas cover surface investigation, physical, chemical, microbiological and instrumental analysis of biological materials, allied with chemometric modelling and data analysis. Protocols using vis-Near Infrared Spectroscopy and Thermogravimetric Analysis have been developed as quality assessment tools for biomaterials. The laboratory carries out academic research on behalf of AFBI and DARD and also offers services to industry.
- Natural fibre quality assessment
A number of work programmes have investigated the quality assessment of flax fibre, yarn and linen fabric, mainly in conjunction with industrial partners. The laboratory has specific protocols in place for testing these materials and has developed databases of quality standards.
- Compost chemistry and microbiology
Assessment of a range of chemical parameters and microorganisms associated with mushroom growth substrates. Predictive modelling of key compost quality factors and potential yield.
- Forage analysis
Development of rapid thermal analysis techniques to investigate both forage grass and silage quality and also to predict Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD) and Metabolizable Energy (ME). Examination of physiological changes in forages.
- Forage & Seaweed Biorefining
Extraction of fibre cake from plant forages for biorefining of lignocellulosic fibre. Production of nano cellulose for use in plant health, medical applications and high performance biopolymers. Research on bioactive extracts from brown seaweeds for plant health applications.
- Cereal straw quality
Physical and chemical characterisation of wheat straw to optimise its use as a composted substrate for edible mushroom growth.
- Compositional analysis of biomass for fuel production
Investigation of the potential for biomass fuel feedstock production from a range of biomaterials including cereal straw, lignocellulosic waste, poultry litter, willow biomass and others. Examination of chemical composition and combustion / pyrolysis characteristics.
The laboratory offers the following resources:
- Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM)
- Energy Dispersive X-Ray Microanalysis (EDX)
- Light & Ultra-Violet (UV) Microscopy
- Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
- Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
- Thermal Analysis (TG-MS)
- Mass Spectrometry
- Surface Energy (DCA)
- Elemental Analysis
- Wet Chemistry
- Physical Testing Methods
- Composting of plant materials
- Pilot scale screw press for forage de-watering
- Particle Size Analysis (DLS)
For more information contact:
Dr Gary Lyons
Applied Plant Sciences Division
Belfast, BT9 5PX